Some drug dealers routed by new citizen patrols from "The Corner," a notorious corridor in South Arlington's Nauck neighborhood, are moving into neighboring areas.

"There's more activity on the Drew School playground at night, on the lower part of South Kemper Road and on Edgewood Street," said John Robinson, who runs the Martin Luther King Community Center in Nauck.

"The drug dealers are like roaches. You spray in one place and they run to another."

Police say the citizen patrols that began there nearly a month ago appear to have slowed the volume of drug dealing at South 24th and Shirlington Road, Arlington County's busiest drug market.

"Drug arrests in Nauck between July 21 and August 11 have been cut in half compared with the three weeks prior to that," said John Karinshak, who heads drug investigations for the county's police department.

Arlington police say the displacement of the street corner market is the most significant progress in fighting drug trafficking in the county in years.

"The hope is that because the drug deals have become more covert and more disrupted, people coming to buy drugs won't know where to find the dealers, and that the dealers will leave when they find out that they're losing money," Karinshak said.

Long known for rowdiness and brawls, in recent years The Corner has gone from being the source for bootleg liquor to one of Virginia's major drug markets. But Nauck residents say Friday and Saturday nights have become much quieter since the citizen patrols began.

The unnamed 80-person group, whose members patrol weekday evenings, relies mostly on intimidation to drive out the dealers. The patrol members sit in lawn chairs, taking down license numbers of cars repeatedly seen in the area, and note the presence of known dealers and their customers, then turn over that information to police.

"The patrols have done a lot," said Tracy Spriggs, 34, a lifelong Nauck resident. "The people from Southeast {Washington} have left. A lot of the New Yorkers have left the area. There's not so much glass to sweep up from off the street on Sunday morning."

But others, including some merchants on Shirlington and their patrons, say the relative quiet ends after 11:30 p.m., when the patrollers go home.

"People are selling just as much drugs . . . when {the patrol is} not out there," said Lucy McClain, manager of the L and L restaurant and bar.

"We close at 2 in the morning. What are they doing between 12 and 2? What are they doing on the weekend?"

Some merchants complain that business on the commercial street has slowed since the patrols began.

"Their object is succeeding," said Sung Lee, an employee at Lucky Seven, a convenience store on Shirlington, "but our business is slow because of them."

The grumbling is likely to increase if the county implements a proposal to ban parking on two blocks of Shirlington, between 24th Street and 24th Road, and to prohibit northbound traffic there between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. The measure is an attempt to further curb the drive-through drug trade.

"I don't think it will help the drug-trafficking problem since a lot of the people walk here anyway, and it can only hurt the merchants," said Leonard Muse, whose Green Valley Pharmacy has operated on Shirlington for nearly 40 years.

On a recent Saturday night, about 15 patrol members were on watch at The Corner, talking into walkie-talkies and wearing T-shirts with the legend "Crack down on drugs" emblazoned on the front. Occasionally, they recited in unison the license number of a car that looked suspicious.

Some volunteers, although proud of their results, admit to flagging interest and weariness. They have come from their full-time jobs to spend an evening on watch.

But others said that no matter how exhausted they get, they will continue working to reclaim the area from pushers and drug addicts.

Across the street, about 60 people milled around in front of the L and L restaurant. Arlington police said as many as 200 people could be found there on a typical night before the patrols began.

One youth said he resented his neighbors "playing police." And he said he sees nothing wrong with the drug use in the area. "It's here, but it's not a problem. If the police can't do their job, it's their problem," he said, declining to give his name. "I see they let Marion Barry go, so they just need to let us alone."

"This is my neighborhood too," said another of the youths.

"I've been here all my life and this is where I'm going to stay.

"Right here on this corner."